Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Central Maryland Rehabilitation Services - WEBSITE LAUNCHED

Check out the recently launched website, www.CMRSpt.com, for Central Maryland Rehabilitation Services.

“InfoPathways created our website and professional portraits and they serve as an excellent tool to create awareness and education to our current and future clients,” said Todd Herring, Director of Central Maryland Rehabilitation Services.

Central Maryland Rehabilitation Services website designed and developed by InfoPathways of Westminster, Maryland

The photographic work on the website was a collaboration between Kelly Heck of InfoPathways (for the professional portraits) and Renee Sherman of CMRS (for the candid shots that illustrate their services).


Monday, October 17, 2011

What is a "Call to Action" ?


A new phrase we hear a lot when discussing online marketing is “Call to Action”. The practice itself is not something new – you’ve probably been doing it for years, but the way you apply it has changed as online marketing has evolved.
Implementing a “Call to Action” is to entice a person to take action. The action could be to place a call, sign up for a newsletter, email to learn more, submit a quote request, fan you on facebook and follow you on twitter, stop in the office to meet the team, etc.
Are you using “Call to Action” tactics on your company website? In your email newsletter? Is it easy for potential clients to contact you? Are you giving current clients ideas and incentives to invest in additional or continuous services from your company?
Take the time to evaluate your efforts and online presences to ensure you are making the most of your marketing investments. Are the action incentives noticeable enough to grab your viewer’s attention? If you aren’t sure, ask a colleague to review your website/newsletter/profile/etc. with you. Often an outsider will have the perspective you need. And check out some other websites to see how they are drawing in their audience. On just a portion of the www.ConstantContact.com website homepage, I see at least 10 “Call to Action” tactics. Even though many are small, there are a variety of methods and visuals to reach new clients.

 

Friday, September 09, 2011

How SEO Works (Search Engine Optimization)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a train you need to hop on. The day you decide to join the brigade will be the day you can begin refining your marketing approaches and improve your business. Make it TODAY!
Any business and promotional activities you participate in online can be deemed SEO. Often if you post or publish something, it is linked back to a personal or professional profile or your website. These links create a pathway that leads users to your company. Let me explain how this works.

Search Engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) have these software robots that we call “spiders”, and they crawl the World Wide Web searching for unique terms and phrases, which we web developers like to call Keywords and Keyphrases. They also search for links. When spiders find a link, they follow it and begin the crawling process over again and again and again. The spiders collect the data and save it. Web users go to a search engines to look up a service or product and the search engine is able to locate the most relevant site based on the terminology submitted. This is how search engines find you, but there are many factors that determine your relevance in Search Engine Return Pages (SERPs).

Your ranking relies on your relevance or what we call a “trust factor”. Is your company real? How long has it been established? Is it managed and marketed by real people? Is your online presence consistently updated? The SEO techniques you rely on heavily impact your trust factor. If you use White Hat SEO Techniques, which are approved methods of improving your ranking, your website will steadily become more reliable in the eyes of spiders and their related search engines. If you use Black Hat SEO Techniques, methods which have been banned (because they tend to try and cheat the system), your credibility is lost and you must begin from scratch. Use of the web and digital media is ever increasing; as a business owner or representative, it’s important that you use it regularly and that you use it right.

SEO takes a long time to build and never ends. If you spend years building your reputation online and it is crushed by a Black Hat technique, you’ve lost years of organic growth! Organic SEO is this slow, steady climb in reliability that is built not just by yourself and your other representatives, but by people outside of your company. Other web users may link to your website, your Facebook Fan Page, they might RE-tweet from your Twitter page or comment on your blog. This is the following and web of links you are looking to establish and build upon, and it takes forever, literally. But one bad move and you’re back to the bottom of the food chain.

We cannot press how important it is to follow the rules, to understand the rules, and to regularly educate yourself on the topic. Luckily there are endless resources that you can SEARCH for online! As search engines continue to increase in accuracy, you will find more relevant SERPs.

There are many terms in this paper that are explained further below:

SEO – Search Engine Optimization: helps Search Engines locate and translate your website’s meaning and/or purpose into unique phrases to achieve a high ranking on Search Engine Return Pages (SERPs).

SERPs – Search Engine Return Pages: are the results displayed in the browser after you have submitted a search via a search engine.

Search Engine: examples include Google, Yahoo, Bing, Dog Pile, Ask Jeeves, etc.

Spiders: are Software Robots that build lists of words found on websites and the location they were found. This process is referred to as Web Crawling.

White Hat SEO: refers to approved SEO techniques that will improve your website rankings in the long term.

Black Hat SEO: refers to banned SEO techniques. They are typically implemented to con search engines into appointing higher ranking to the related website. Often these techniques are short term solutions to gain higher rankings but can also lead to a site’s removal from search engines.

Organic SEO: is achieved over time through efforts of those outside of your organization who may refer to your website or other online presences. Organic SEO greatly increases your “trust factor”.

Trust Factor: is the relevance of your website or the likelihood that your products and services are true and of interest.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Free Online Marketing Tips

There are many online marketing options you can pursue, both paid and free, whether or not you have a website. Following are free marketing ideas to get the ball rolling.

Free Online Marketing Ideas

Taking advantage of free online marketing opportunities should be done patiently over time. Because online marketing is also an SEO endeavor, search engines keep track of your business’ trust factor. In the event that you tackle all of these suggestions at once in the course of a few days, search engines may take that as someone trying to cheat the system, and in doing so, you may in fact HARM your online presence.

Instead, take your time! Schedule to complete one or two per week and mix up the method with which you are marketing. This week, perhaps fill out two new business profiles and write a blog post. Next week submit your previous blog post as an article to an online article marketing website. The following week, send out your news worthy press release to local news reporters; do not forget to include a helpful FULL link (http://) to your website in the article. After that, post a video to YouTube and update your Facebook and Twitter pages (or gosh almighty, start them if you haven’t already!!!).

Be the authority figure in your industry. In doing so, your consistent, online marketing efforts will be targeted towards helping and informing your audience. In turn, your website traffic and business can slowly increase.

Link Building = SEO = Marketing

Download the article "Free Online Marketing Tips" PDF via the link below:
http://www.infopathways.com/documents/WhitePapers/Free-Online-Marketing.pdf

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stock Image Scare: Using Copyrighted Images & Photos without Authorization

Recently we have had a couple of colleagues burdened with a large, unexpected bill. This article is both a warning and an educational resource to explain what’s up. Please continue reading if you have a presence online or in print for your business, organization, or side job.

Getty Images, a large stock image agency, is cracking down on anyone using unauthorized images from their image libraries, and they are sweeping the web diligently. If they find one of their images on your website (that you did not pay to use), you will receive a bill, and it’s not just a couple of bucks. We’re talking about 3 to 4-digit bills with no warning and very little wiggle room.

After reading that, you’re probably thinking, ‘holy crap, these guys are jerks’. They aren’t, however. The photographers and artists that create these pieces are the rightful owners and are trying to make a living off of their efforts; agencies like Getty Images help them sell their work. In other words, if you use an image Joe created and it helps you sell your product, Joe deserves a cut of your profits. If you made the first double cheeseburger, wouldn’t you be mad that McDonald’s took your idea?

So who is responsible for payment? Getty’s bill states that the website owner is the party responsible for payment, not the website developer. As a website owner, this can be frustrating because there are a few scenarios to consider:
  1. Did you or your team create your website in-house with images you found? You are responsible.
  2. Did you or your team send images to your web team to use on your website? You are responsible.
  3. Did your web team magically find those images? Then the web team is responsible.
  4. Did your previous web team provide those images to your new web team? Then the previous web team is responsible.
No matter what scenario you fall under, Getty says YOU have to pay. The four scenarios above are based on my opinion.

Now that the moral part of my article is finished, let me elaborate. Getty represents the cream of the crop. Their library of images is copyrighted with the government (learn more at www.copyright.gov). Why is this important?

“Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.” www.copyright.gov. If you have used a stolen image that is copyrighted, the owner (or Getty as the representative of the owner) has the right to bill you up to three times (3x) the standard usage fee. In addition, you would be responsible for both your legal fees and the other parties legal fees should the matter go to court.

What do you need to do to avoid this? First, be careful where you take your images from. Second, become educated on the subject. If you see the word “free”, it doesn’t always literally mean “FREE”.

Very few photos are free; only PD photos (explained below) have no copyright attached. In other cases, the original photographer usually owns the copyright of the image as the creator. To use a copyrighted image, you need to purchase a license. In the case of free and creative commons images (explained below), the license is free. On the other hand, paid "stock photography" requires that you pay for the license. This license defines the expected use of the image (usage refers to a number of factors including but not limited to how large the image is, where/how it is used, how long it is in use, and the expected size of the audience or geographic region). It’s important to understand that buying a stock image does not make you the owner or copyright holder of the image - you are buying a license to use the image. The following buyers glossary was borrowed from www.budgetstockphoto.com.

Stock Photo - A stock photo is simply an "off the shelf" image that was taken with the intention of being reused in a design, web site etc., this compared to having someone take a custom photo for you. Stock photos can be obtained either free or by purchase. The term “stock photo” is used to differentiate these images from those which were taken as artworks, or for documentary or editorial purposes.

Public Domain (PD) - Public Domain images are images that have been made available for free use and have no terms attached. Typically the choice of subjects and image resolution or quality is limited.

License - A license describes the terms which you agree to when you 'buy' an image for use. These conditions typically prohibit you from reselling the image or using it in certain predefined ways. When you 'buy' an image you are in fact buying a license to use it, you are not buying the copyright of the image, a common misunderstanding amongst amateur image buyers. Licenses vary from site to site, so always check to be sure you can use the image in the way you intend. There are two main license types in stock photography: Rights Managed (RM) and Royalty Free (RF).

Creative Commons - Creative Commons is a system of licenses which allows photographers to provide their work for free under certain well defined conditions. These conditions typically exclude the image from being used in commercial applications and ALWAYS stipulate that the photographer be attributed where the pictures are used. Many photographers use creative commons as a way of promoting their work in front of a wider audience.

Microstock - Microstock is a term applied to Royalty Free stock photo agencies who source their images from not just professional photographers, but also amateurs via a strictly controlled review process. Microstock sites are a marketplace for thousands of photographers to sell their work to you, but buyers only need to deal with the agency itself. Most sites allow you to buy credits that afford you a number of downloads of varying resolutions. Most also Microstock agencies sell vector illustrations and some sell stock footage (video).

Resolution - Strictly speaking, the term Resolution refers to how many pixels (the smallest elements of a digital image) are displayed or printed in a defined area (i.e. 300 dots per inch - 300dpi), but the term is often used to refer to the dimensions of an image in pixels (e.g. 1200x1600 pixels). The higher the number of pixels, the larger you will be able to print or display the image without losing quality.

Subscription Images - Subscription Images allow you to pay a monthly or annual fee to access a pre-defined number of photos as you need them. This is a lower-cost option if you need images on a regular basis.

Editorial Photo - The term Editorial Photo is usually applied to images of events or celebrities. Editorial Photos have special license terms applied to them; they normally cannot be used in advertising or promotional material.

Extended License - Extended License is a term used by stock agencies to allow images to be used in more applications than normally allowed. For example, to resell a photo as a derivative product like a framed print, website template, poster etc., you need to buy an extended license or merchandise license. These types of licenses cost more than standard royalty free licenses.

Royalty Free (RF) - Stock photos which are supplied for unlimited use (within the license terms which do sometimes include restrictions) are called Royalty Free because you do not pay a royalty each time the image is used or for how many times it is displayed. Microstock images are sold as RF.

Rights Managed (RM) - Rights Managed is usually the most expensive way to buy stock photos, but has some key benefits in exclusivity, as rights managed images are strictly controlled. With Rights Managed, you pay to use the image or images on a per use basis. For example, you may use a RM image on an internal page of 10,000 copies of a magazine, or on the front page of a web site for 1 year.

Attribution / Credit Link - An attribution or credit is piece of text or web link displayed alongside an image when you use it. Unless used in editorial applications paid stock images almost never require a credit. Conversely a large majority of free stock photo licenses stipulate some kind of 'credit', as do all creative commons licenses. In this case, you can think of the attribution being made in lieu of payment to the photographer. If you use the images without giving the credit, then you will be breaking the terms of the license leaving you open to legal action. Many people find themselves in this situation when they simply download a photo they see in the internet and use it.

Thank you to www.budgetstockphoto.com for this excellent description of the stock industry terminology!

Just two more terms to cover and then you will know the basics regarding the use of online images:

Non-exclusive - Non-exclusive images can be sold to others and be used elsewhere. This is important to note if you do not want a competitor or another business using the same imagery as you. McDonald’s, for instance, would be silly to buy a non-exclusive image of a juicy hamburger because Burger King could swipe it up too. Imagine the damage this would have on both companies’ reputations. Non-Exclusive images should not be used in your organization’s branding where image recognition should cause one to automatically think of your organization, product or service.

Exclusive images - Exclusive images cannot be sold to others, only the one buyer is granted usage rights. It costs a lot more, but is good for brand identity.

In Conclusion
If you find free clip art online, make sure you read the license agreements. They are very much like agreements on any website… very easy to look over and click “I agree to the terms” without taking a glance, but they contain very important information. Every website, agency and individual photographer/artist has their own licensing rules, so take care in checking each image.

Finally, we recommend you check your website and any online media (print media is also something to double-check). Question any images in which their source locations are not accounted for and consider replacing them.

Want to share this article with a colleague?
Click here to download a PDF version!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thermite & Hammers, Oh My!

Last Friday, May 13th, InfoPathways continued the destruction of hard drives (and back-up tape drives) experiment using thermite and an 8-year-old armed with a hammer. Both are entertaining and both destroyed the drives. Have a look, brought to you through our InfoPathways YouTube Channel!



Don't forget we are doing this LIVE on May 19th at our office in Westminster, MD. If you would like to join us, RSVP to Kelly at Kelly@InfoPathways.com or (410) 751-9929 x105.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Want to double your disk space? Try sawing your hard drive in half with a sawzall!
InfoPathways ( http://www.infopathways.com/ ) is destroying hard drives to protect your data. Join us on May 19th for live demonstrations and to try some experiments yourself! RSVP to (410) 751-9929 x105!


Sawzall a Hard Drive at InfoPathways - Photography by Kelly Heck

Sawzall a Hard Drive at InfoPathways - Photography by Kelly Heck

Have ideas? Jot them down in the comments section!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to Shoot a Hard Drive with a 22 Caliber by InfoPathways

Ready... Aim... FIRE!

In preparation for our exciting Destruction of Hard Drives class on May 19th, InfoPathways is conducting many experiments to protect data. Some of the experiments are not safe to do with the crowd, so our team is getting these methods out of the way. These drives will be on display at the May 19th event and we will demonstrate other methods of destruction (safer methods) with our event attendees.

The video below shows Database Engineer and Partner, Doug Heck, shooting hard drives with a 22 Caliber on his property in Taneytown, MD. The video was taken on May 8th, 2011 by Doug. We hope you enjoy!


If you would like to attend our event on May 19th, please contact Kelly Heck at InfoPathways to learn more and to RSVP. Or click here to learn more and RSVP online for Destruction of Hard Drives & Other Equipment.

How would you destroy a hard drive?
Please comment below!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Cut a Hard Drive in Half with an Oxy Acetylene Torch

Kelly, Thom, Doug and Jovan of InfoPathways ( http://www.infopathways.com/ ) teamed up with Rob McDonnell, owner of Rob's Truck & Auto ( http://www.robstruckandauto.com/ ), to melt a hard drive in half with an oxy acetylene torch. Worried about the security of your data on old hard drives? You can rest easy now!



Hard Drive and Oxy Acetylene Torch at InfoPathways - Photography by Kelly Heck

Hard Drive and Oxy Acetylene Torch at InfoPathways - Photography by Kelly Heck

Hard Drive and Oxy Acetylene Torch at InfoPathways - Photography by Kelly Heck

Hard Drive and Oxy Acetylene Torch at InfoPathways - Photography by Kelly Heck

View more of our experiments at the InfoPathways YouTube Channel!
Don't try this at home - it's dangerous and you could get hurt.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

InfoPathways Experiment: Burning a Hard Drive with Hand Sanitizer as Fuel

InfoPathways executed their first experiment in preparation for our upcoming class "Destruction of Hard Drives & Other Equipment" on Thursday, May 19th 2011. For this experiment, we doused a drive with about 8 oz. of Hand Sanitizer. Hand Sanitizer is very flammable, containing 62% Alcohol.


Destruction of Hard Drive with Hand Sanitizer and Heat - Photography by Kelly Heck

Destruction of Hard Drive with Hand Sanitizer and Heat - Photography by Kelly Heck

Monday, May 02, 2011

Commercial Building Maintenance Website Launched

Commercial Building Maintenance LLC has been serving Maryland since 1985 with quality, dependable building maintenance, temporary labor solutions, and property management services. We provide property management MD, post construction clean up, janitorial services, temporary labor and help solutions and green cleaning to a variety of businesses. Our clients range from commercial and retail to industrial. Some additional examples of services we offer and locations we serve are listed below.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

QR Codes

While working on InfoPathways' Bing Local profile, Bing provided this great cartoon styled explanation of a QR Code. We've been seeing these around a lot lately, in TV commercials, in magazines and on poster, etc. We will be writing an article about them soon, to give you more insight. But for now, enjoy this tiny tutorial:

Twitter for Business

The Twitter dance is about interaction. The social medias of the World Wide Web are online venues to build upon your relationships. The first goal is to build trust among your satisfied customers and prompt them to suggest your products and services to their clients, colleagues, friends and other contacts. The second goal is to eavesdrop on conversations about your company and services and the industry in general. You need to get involved in conversations and start conversations to be noticed.
How do you know if someone is talking about you? You can go to search.twitter.com to search posts related to you. You can also sign up for TweetBeeps at tweetbeep.com to receive email alerts when any Tweets related to you pop up.

But is Twitter Right for ME?
Great uses for twitter would be news-worthy “Tweets” or posts, weather updates, school events and delays and closings, etc. People who sign up for these types of Twitter accounts know what they are getting into and should be expecting multiple Tweets per day.
There are businesses, however, that should not send out multiple Tweets a day, or even once daily. If you sell real-estate for example, you may not want to Tweet about every house you’re showing and visiting every day. However, this does not necessarily mean Real-Estate agents and other companies of smaller stature SHOULDN’T be using Twitter. The type of company you have determines HOW you use Twitter. You have to be reasonable, think about what your followers want, and be consistent.
In addition, Twitter is free. You can bet that is the right price.

Make it Worthy of Interruption
Not only are most Twitter users viewing Tweets on their phones, many Tweeters have set their phones up to send tweets directly to their phones by way of a text message. This is good and bad at the same time. Good, because you are placing messages directly into the hands of your followers. Bad, because every Tweet is an interruption of their day… too many Tweets about things your followers do not care about can negatively impact your following. Before you post, consider if it is worth interrupting your followers. Thinking twice? I suggest you reconsider.

A Few Tips
Hashtags, or the # symbol, are used to specify relevant keywords in your Tweets. The purpose of this tool is for better search results in Twitter Search. If you click on a hashtag keyword, all other tweets containing the same hashtag keyword will be displayed. InfoPathways may want to write “#webdesign” instead of “web design”, for example. Like many search features and SEO type tactics, do not abuse this tool. Conversely, ridiculous hashtag keywords have become popular; despite the fact that people would rarely enter the odd phrase in Twitter Search, a funny hashtag keyword may be reused again and again. For example, #MotherInLawNightmare could catch on quickly.
The @ symbol is used to tag other users by their username. InfoPathways’ username is “InfoPathways”, so if Joe Black wants to tag us, he would enter “@InfoPathways” in his Tweet.
Many Twitter users “retweet” (RT) messages. If someone retweets a message you sent them, all of the people who follow them will see your message. Be sure to give credit to the person you RT.

“The entire idea of using Twitter for marketing is to get the people who already follow you to share your content with the people who follow them… that’s viral marketing at its finest.”
Kyle Lacy, author of Twitter Marketing for DUMMIES

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

New Websites Launched

InfoPathways has recently launched three (3) websites with more to come!

Solar Tek Window Tinting website designed by InfoPathways

Solar Tek Window Tinting, above, is a 3M Authorized Prestige Window Film Dealer and Applicator serving the Baltimore metropolitan area. InfoPathways redesigned their website while also reducing the size of the site to improve the user experience. Visit their website at www.solartektinting.com!

MACS website designed by InfoPathways

MACS (Maryland Association of Community Services), above, is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening agencies to better support people with developmental disabilities and their families in their own communities. InfoPathways redesigned their website and set up the MACS team with Adobe Contribute so they can maintain the website in-house. Visit their website at www.MACSonline.org!

Family Foot Care Center website designed by InfoPathways

The Family Foot Care Center (above) is a foot health care clinic specializing in providing all the medical and surgical treatments related to the foot and ankle such as bunions, heel pain, orthotics, and others. The clinic is owned and operated by Dr. Joseph Borreggine, a licensed and board certified podiatrist in Illinois and Arizona. InfoPathways was first asked to just redesign the MyFeetHurt.net website and provide the files for completion in-house. After some time, the Family Foot Care team decided to have InfoPathways complete and launch the website. Visit their website at www.MyFeetHurt.net!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Benefits of Google Analytics


So you want to start learning what gets your website hits and what doesn’t. A great way to study your website and marketing success (based on the visitors you receive, how you receive them and when) is to integrate Google Analytics with your website. All you have to do is ask your web developer to sign you up and copy and paste the appropriate code into your web page and Google begins collecting stats on your visitors, how they found you, what they looked at, and so so so much more. To top it, Google Analytics is a free tool.

What you learn from Analytics

Google Analytics isn’t just a reason to go look at charts and say “OOO! 345 people visited our website in the last month!” It’s important to understand WHY, WHEN and WHERE those 345 people were on your website and HOW they got there.

The reason to keep track of website statistics is to learn what helped your website receive more traffic, what was beneficial to your business and what tactics have little to no benefit. You can also learn if your website is not leading your visitors to the right information; maybe visitors are looking at your Home and About Us pages, but not making it to the Services page. This means they are leaving before they really learn what you do! Maybe your site needs to be reworded, laid out differently or reduced in size (number of pages). Is your search engine optimization (SEO) doing its job? If your target audience is geographically local and you are in Baltimore Maryland and 50% of your visitors are from Alaska, maybe you need to refine your keywords and content.

If you do not understand how to read your analytics, pay close attention to your advertising. When you send a press release to your newspaper contacts, update your website, send out your monthly newsletter, place an ad in the paper or community pamphlet, or anything that could get your business information into the hands of potential clients, check out your Google Analytics reports. Hopefully you will see an increased number of visitors on those related dates. If your advertising is intended to increase your website traffic and your number of visitors has not increased, you may be putting effort into the wrong methods.

If you are not receiving an increased number of visitors, try to resolve the problem. Ask your web developer to take a look at your website and provide feedback on areas in which SEO can be improved. If you aren’t sure about your web developer, ask a different company for an hour or so of their time and make sure your website is up-to-date and all it can be. One billable hour is not going to drain your wallet - a website that doesn’t get you any business will. The other thing to check is that you are marketing your website in your print material and your emails. Give your clients and potential clients a reason to go to your website and make it convenient. If you developed your printed material yourself, consider having a professional take a look.

What does Google Analytics Collect?

• # of Pages Viewed
• % of Bounce Rate (people who clicked to view your website and immediately left)
• Average Time on website total and by page
• # of Visitors Geographically by Country, State and City
• Traffic Sources (how people have found you and where they found you)
• ... there’s a lot more and each of the features listed above are broken down in to dozens and dozens of categories and sections.

Following is a screen shot of Google Analytics reports. This is what the dashboard (or home page) of your account would look like. To the left you can delve into further detail (Visitors, Traffic Sources, Content, etc.).


Download this article and more, provided by InfoPathways.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

SPOKEO, the new social network search engine

 HELPFUL WEB APP OR CYBER-STALKING TOOL?
If you think current social medias are intrusive and possibly hazardous to your personal and professional safety, put that to rest. SPOKEO or what I call SPOOKY-O, brings a great deal of online AND offline information to one place. It pulls this information from phone directories, over 40 social networks, photo albums, marketing surveys, mailing lists, government census, real estate listings and business websites. To me it sounds extremely scary and a bit over-detailed for my taste.

You can look yourself up now at http://www.spokeo.com/ and possibly find a summary of you; this site is active and is posting your no-longer private information, including:
  • Name
  • Phone, Phone Type & Carrier
  • Email Address, it’s IP Address and the Exchange Server
  • Home Address with a Google Map image to visually pinpoint your location and sharing property info (like how big your home is, the lot size, if there’s a garage and whether or not it is attached, the number of bathrooms / floors / bedrooms, the value, how long you have lived there, the purchase date and price, if it has heating / cooling, a swimming pool, fireplace, what materials the residence is made of, etc.)
  • Social Networks
  • Photos (even photos that have been REMOVED from social media and online accounts like the photo center for Wal-Mart/Kodak, etc.)
  • Income
  • Family members in your household and their relation to you (with links to see all of their info), if you have children, etc.
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Marital/Relationship Status
  • Hobbies
  • Ethnicity
  • Occupation
  • Zodiac
  • Education
  • Neighborhood Statistics & Info
  • Favorites/Wish-Lists (I found mine for Amazon.com)
  • Videos
  • and more…
SPOKEO began as a tool to summarize social networking information but has expanded to cover phone books, marketing databases, business databases, web stores and other public sources of personal information, summarizing data from as many third party sites as possible.

No, it is not a perfect system. Because it is generated by machine and not verified for accuracy, the data SPOKEO collects can only be as accurate as the data people post. You may find that upon looking up your name/email/phone that they do not have the correct address or gender or age or other such data. Try searching by each of these methods; the results vary a bit in the amount of data and the accuracy of that data. SPOKEO may not have you indexed yet, but still, the abilities of SPOKEO are a bit frightening. In response to inaccurate data, SPOKEO claims that:

"Data is not guaranteed for accuracy and should not be used for employment, insurance, credit eligibility, or for any other purpose covered under the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act).”
I personally doubt this comment will prevent someone from judging me for future employment, insurance, credit eligibility or other purposes. How about you?

But don’t fret; they do not give it ALL away. But for only $2.95 a month, you can have full and unlimited access to the personal records of over 300 million people. Not a bad price for your average cyber-stalker.

You CAN opt out of SPOKEO. On the bottom of their homepage screen, click on the tiny Privacy Tab to begin removing your listing. This only removes you from SPOKEO, however. They recommend that if you wish to remove your data from third-party data sources, you must contact them one-by-one or utilize ReputationDefender to protect your online identity from sites that sell your personal information.

Post information online carefully, no matter
where you are. Data lasts FOREVER.
Be safe and share safe online practices with
your co-workers and especially your family.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

15 New & Old Computer Dos & Don’ts FOR YOUR HOME AND OFFICE COMPUTERS

New computers are great they run fast they look good and they have the latest and greatest processers and newest versions of windows. But clearly they don’t stay that way forever. So here are a few tips and tricks to prolong the life of your aging computer.

1.       Keep automatic update on, it will update every day or every few days.

2.       Turn off your computer when you go to bed; this is for two reasons. First, it’s good to give the computer a break. Second, shutting down gives your computer the time it needs to run updates. Use the Start Button on the Windows Taskbar to shut down. Also avoid leaving your computer powered on when it is not in use (this also reduces your power bill).

3.       Virus and Spyware Protection programs are very important to keep your computer safe. AVG will protect you from viruses. Threat Fire is a great protection against spyware. Both are free!

4.       Only download files and software from credible websites. Do not use software that is uncertified and/or illegally licensed. Often malware/spyware is associated with these.

5.       Scan your computer on a regular basis.

6.       Keep food and drinks away from the computer as best you can, as well as smoke.

7.       Keep the computer in a clean environment and ONLY WHEN TURNED OFF, open it up to remove dust every so often. The fans tend to suck up dust along with the cool air to maintain the temperature of your processor, video card and hard drive. Do be careful how you dust; powerful vacuums and damp cloths can cause damage. Vacuum cleaners that are made specifically to suck up stubborn dirt and strands of hair have special nozzles meant for computer cleaning only. If doing this yourself, consider blowing out the dust with canned air or a blow dryer set to cool (wear a mask and/or goggles to protect your eyes). No static dusting materials (sorry Swiffer). Anti-static towels are safe and you can find them in computer stores and you can also use a soft brush. Also, do not use household cleaners. If your monitor, mouse or keyboard is gross, dust first and then use an antistatic cleaning wipe, also available in computer stores.

8.       Keep your computer off the floor; this will help you avoid numbers 6 and 7.

9.       Before moving your computer off the floor (or moving it in general), power down first. Moving running equipment can damage sensitive parts of your system.

10.   Make sure your computer has proper airflow. If the fan breaks, get it fixed. If it’s full of dust, clean it out (a good sign of bad dust is a faint burning smell meaning your computer is REWALLY hot and about to spark a flame). And don’t smash the fan side of your computer against a wall – give it some breathing room.

11.   Do not let your pets hang out around or on your computer; hair balls are a computers biggest nemesis.

12.   Uninstall demo software you do not want or need as soon as you have the computer up and running.

13.   An UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) or APC is always a good investment. It will prevent your computer from crashing during a power outage and protect it from other electrical damage such as voltage peaks and falls. In an outage, do not continue use of the computer, save your work and power down the computer and resume work once the power is back up. We recommend APC units (American Power Conversion); make sure you buy the appropriate power size for your system.

14.   Write down your password credentials if you find you have trouble remembering them all. They should be stored somewhere safe, not on a pad of paper or a word document on your computer. You can use password keeper software on a USB drive. To access them, you only need to remember one password to unlock the file. Every so often, especially if you think your computer has been hacked, change your passwords.

15.   If your computer is beyond sluggish or frozen, there are a few options you should try to solve the problem before forcing power-down:

a.       Hit “Ctrl-Alt-Delete” – this will bring up a list of options. Choose to start Task Manager. Windows Task Manager’s default window (pictured right) will show you a list of running programs and opened windows. If you know which item caused your computer to slow down, click it to highlight that item and hit “End Task”. Do not use this to stop installations/uninstallations or when windows is running updates. You may find that when you opened Facebook or another website, your computer froze, so you would want to select and end that task and then see how your computer reacts. At this point, it would not hurt to save and close opened windows to restart your computer. If “Ctrl-Alt-Delete” does not work and the computer is still frozen:

b.      Allow the computer to sit for a while; there is a chance it will work out its problem and be fine later. If so, restart the computer so it is running fresh. If you come back later (20, 30 minutes) and the computer is still frozen:

c.       We don’t like to suggest it, but sometimes forcing your computer to power down is necessary. DO NOT UNPLUG YOUR COMPUTER. Again, DO NOT UNPLUG YOUR COMPUTER!!! You should be able to power down your computer by pressing and holding down the power button for a few seconds. Don’t hit it repeatedly, just hold down the button until it powers off. Let it rest for at least a few minutes before powering on.

Following these tips will help keep your computer working longer and running faster.
We wish your computer a long and healthy life!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Section 508 : Website Accessibility

508 Compliance refers to “Section 508” of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and mandates that electronic and information technology purchased by the Federal Government is accessible by people with disabilities. An accessible web site is one that can be understood by everyone, regardless of what browser or adaptive equipment he or she may be using. It’s likely you are not a federal government owned agency, so why does accessibility concern you?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the overall disability rate in 2005 was 18.7%, 12% of which have a severe disability. The reported disabilities do vary, but think about how many of these people are visually or hearing impaired, or something as simple as color blindness or persons with epilepsy. Consider the number of persons who have a mobility impairment that inhibits them from using a computer. These could be potential clients of your company. If they cannot use your website, you may have lost a client.
Aside from the ability to reach disabled clients, many techniques required by Section 508 increase your SEO (search engine optimization). For example, Section 508 dictates that you implement practices and techniques such as:
  1. Alt text for images and graphics
  2. HTML Text alternatives for every significant non-text element
  3. Descriptive text in hyperlinks/anchor-text
  4. Avoid blinking text/graphics/animations / Avoid causing the screen to flicker at certain frequencies
  5. Using a font family that is made for use on the computer (Arial or Verdana, for example)
  6. Strong color contrasts (Good: White on dark gray; Bad: Yellow on Orange)
For further information, we recommend you check out the Quick Accessibility Checklist, provided by Penn State or you may get it straight from the source at www.section508.gov.
Some of these samples can boost your SERPs (search engine return pages) while others enhance usability.

You can find online testing to check some of your website’s accessibility. Usability is the goal and usability by the (disabled) user is the ultimate test and the most accurate way to test your site’s accessibility effectiveness. Here are some free tests you can use online, no downloads necessary:
A simple website can easily be made to fit Section 508 standards, and it’s likely that your site is currently following many of their guidelines. If it is not, you are certainly missing out on searches that will not only bringing you clients from the disabled community, but the abled as well.

Happy Browsing!